One of the sure signs that political activists have too much time on their hands is all the chatter about who will win the 2016 presidential nominations.
It's no secret that both political parties are struggling to connect with voters. Strategists dream up marketing plans to increase their party's appeal to this constituency or that group. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't. But they never establish a deep and lasting connection with voters.
That's because most of what the parties talk about is yesterday's news and is largely irrelevant to the realities of the 21st century.
Consider the top issue before the nation -- the economy. President Obama wants to raise taxes and increase government spending to boost the economy and create jobs. Republicans disagree. Voters root for their political team but see little connection between rhetoric and reality.
Sixty-four percent of Americans say that it's possible to have an honest discussion about race in America. I would like to believe that, but I am skeptical.
As Americans, we tend to believe we have the right to do whatever we want, so long as it doesn't interfere with the rights of others. But sometimes the lines get a little blurry.
Our nation's 237th birthday is being celebrated in many ways that have become familiar over the years. Fifteen percent of Americans will watch a parade; 29 percent will sing patriotic songs; 63 percent will enjoy a cookout with family and friends; 78 percent are likely to see fireworks.
On Dec. 1, 1955, a churchgoing woman of character refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala. Many credit Rosa Parks' courageous action that day with launching the civil rights movement. While I have great respect for what Ms. Parks did that day, however, she did not start the civil rights movement. The movement began long before, and public opinion led the way.
While recognizing that it's important to fight terrorism with all of the tools at our disposal, the American people are having a hard time finding good guys in the story about the National Security Agency's surveillance program.
Government officials from the president on down have defended the program and claim it has prevented several terrorist attacks. However, questions have been raised about some of those claims, and just 35 percent of Americans believe the officials are telling the truth. A larger number (45 percent) believe they are just trying to justify the surveillance program now that it's been made public.
Another week, another controversy in official Washington.
At the moment, 35 percent of voters consider recently exposed National Security Agency surveillance efforts as the most serious. The Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservatives is No. 2 on the list, followed by concerns about the Obama administration's handling of the incident in Benghazi last fall in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya was murdered. The Justice Department's secret probe of reporters' phone and email records is seen as the top concern by only 9 percent.
Many pundits assumed that this would be the year that comprehensive immigration reform became law. The conventional wisdom was that President Obama's re-election and his strong showing among Hispanic voters would force Republicans to go along.
Now, halfway through the year, the prospects for immigration reform have dimmed significantly.
Most stories about the president's health care law these days are about the challenges of implementation and the complexity of setting up exchanges. But that's not where the action is. What's more important is that insurance companies, benefits consultants and others are actually reading the 2,000-page law to see what it says.